Monday, June 24, 2013

Finding community at the Homesteading Conference

by Cathy Lafrenz

On August 31 .... the alarm will go off at three am.

I consider myself to be a morning person. But three am is the middle of the night.

I will nudge Honey ... once ....... twice....... maybe three times. It is time to get up.

We shower, dress and try to figure out how to mainline coffee. We will load the car ...... canning supplies, veggies, powerpoint presentations. I will double check the list like Santa, the night before Christmas.

Honey finishes up chores as I close the business for the day. I have worked on that for weeks before ..... scheduling earlier cutting days, posting on social media, making sure the signage is out.

A little before 5 am, the car is headed east on I-80, crossing the Mississippi River on our way to Joliet.

Yes ... we are on the way to the Mid-America Homesteading Conference.

So what makes us drive for 3 hours ....... I will talk most of the day ....... and then, we drive 3 hours home? What makes the Mid-America Homesteading Conference so special? Let me try to explain.

When my husband and I started our quest for a homestead-based life around 15 years ago, we looked at the usual sources ........ Mother Earth News, Countryside, and Hobby Farmer. We loved what we read .......... but when we started to implement some "homestead" practices such as canning, spinning and backyard chickens to our life ...... we felt like we lived on an island!

We were alone in our pursuit of the simple life. When I would bring a hostess gift of a jar of jam or home-baked bread ..... I felt like I was being patted on the head. How cute! You can!

I would be waiting for an appointment, knitting a pair of socks to pass the time. It never failed. Some one would say ...... My grandmother did that. But she only used one needle. That would be crochet. What are you making? Socks. Whyyyyy????


Fortunately, times have changed!!! People are now embracing a more self-sufficient lifestyle. They want to learn what came so naturally to their grandparents. And the Mid-America Homesteading Conference gives them the opportunity to learn and ask and share.

From bees to soapmaking, fiber to compost, canning to pork, chickens to sorghum ......... the conference will be filled with knowledgeable, friendly instructors that will tell about their successes and their failures. There will even be live demostrations .... so questions can answered during the action!

Last year, breaks were filled with laughter and fun as we sat and ate with like-minded people. It didn't matter that they lived 250 miles from us .......... it was a community.

And a homestead community feels much better than an island!

Cathy Lafrenz started her farm in 2002, Miss Effie's Country Flowers and Garden Stuff, which is a partner site for Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area. You can get to know Miss Effie's through Facebook and Cathy's blog. She will be talking about homestead businesses at this year's conference, as well as doing a two-hour canning demonstration.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Goin'lupi gardening and composting

At this year's conference Master Gardener and Composter Tina Lupiezowiec of Madison, WI, will talk about composting, companion planting, and gardening basics. If you want to have fun while learning about gardening and composting, you won't want to miss Tina's talks.

"I am a sort-of ordinary person who decided several years back to become an Urban Farmer, and in so doing, discovered that I could make a positive difference in the lives of others," says Tina. "My flaws and imperfections, of which there are only a few (thousand), seem to make me more approachable than others who possess knowledge far greater than mine. I've been told that folks don't feel dumb around me. Hum?"

How does one become an urban farmer?
The adventure began when I became a homeowner. One pregnant day, life decided it was time to settle me down. We moved into an older neighborhood on a ¾ acre lot on the west-side of Madison, Wisconsin. I began with simple ambitions: green grass, pruned trees, a mint garden, raspberry rows, and a 500-square-foot vegetable garden. Then, before I knew it, what had started as a modest garden exploded into the nearly absolute cultivation of my entire property.

Goin' Lupi - Madison, WIEmploying natural organic methods, Farmer Tina grows countless varieties of gourmet tomatoes, peppers, garlic and herbs to sell at local farmers' markets.  Sustainability-minded and an advocate for everyday people, Farmer Tina is definitely a character you’ll find interesting.  She is an enthusiastic public speaker, motivator, trainer, community volunteer and Jill of Most Trades.  Once you have learned and laughed with Farmer Tina, odds are good, you'll be goinlupi too! You can get to know her better by visiting her website, liking her Facebook page,  and following her on Twitter.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Fiber, anyone?

We had several requests for sessions related to fiber animals at the next conference, so here you go.

Deborah Niemann, author of Homegrown and Handmade, will present Fiber Animals For Fun and Profit. Whether you have a hundred acres or just a couple, you'll discover what type of fiber animals will work for you. We'll talk about fiber from rabbits, goats, sheep, and camelids (llamas and alpacas), as well as the basics of caring for fiber animals, how to harvest fiber, and how to process it for selling. Deborah and her family raise Shetland sheep and llamas and have raised angora rabbits in the past. Their fiber is sold raw, as roving, and in yarn, as well as in finished garments.

You will get to see, feel, and smell (yes, smell!) natural Shetland sheep wool in various stages of processing.